Posts Tagged Government

Google Wins Renewal of Its China License, Xinhua Says

July 11, 2010, 7:04 AM EDT | Bloomberg | By Brian Womack and Mark Lee

July 11 (Bloomberg) — China’s government confirmed that it renewed Google Inc.’s Internet license, after the U.S. company’s local venture pledged to allow its Web content to be supervised by regulators, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Beijing Guxiang Information Technology Co., operator of Google’s China website, has undertaken to comply with Chinese law and provide no law-breaking content, Xinhua reported, citing an unidentified official at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

Getting the go-ahead gives Google, which disclosed China’s decision to renew its license last week, a chance to win search share lost to market leader Baidu Inc. and woo advertisers put off by the company’s half-year dispute with the government. Some Google operations were in jeopardy as it balked at censorship rules that require companies to filter Web content.

Google was surprised by how quickly China renewed the company’s Internet-services license, Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt said in a July 9 interview. There were no formal negotiations between Google and Chinese officials over the decision, a person familiar with the matter said.

China renewed the license through 2012, and officials will revisit the decision annually. China’s government can still use its authority to yank the license if it deems Google’s compliance wanting, said Sandeep Aggarwal, an analyst at Caris & Co. in San Francisco.

‘At Risk’

“Google remains at risk in China,” Aggarwal said. “Chinese regulators gave them a back door.”

Google, owner of the world’s most popular search engine, went public with its dispute in January, saying it was no longer willing to comply with China’s filtering regulations.

“We look forward to continuing to provide Web search and local products to our users in China,” the company said on its July 9 blog. Spokeswoman Jessica Powell declined to say whether China had imposed any conditions on renewing the permit.

Google, based in Mountain View, California, won approval after changing the way it handled search requests. After closing its Chinese search engine in March, it had been automatically redirecting users to its unfiltered site in Hong Kong. To allay officials’ concerns, Google added an extra hurdle for Chinese Web surfers, directing them to a landing page that in turn pointed them to the Hong Kong site.

Complicating Search

That change comes at a price, said Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray Cos.

“The landing page strategy for Google.cn adds one more complication to Google’s user experience in China,” Munster said in a July 9 research note. “Every step added to the search process will ultimately cause Google to lose some users.”

China also made concessions. Letting Google keep operating may help the government show it’s open to outside competition, said Scott Kessler, head of technology equity research at Standard & Poor’s, who rates Google “strong buy.”

“There were definitely risks if Google were to be unceremoniously dismissed from a country lock, stock and barrel,” said Kessler, who’s based in New York. “Then, you’d have Baidu as the sole, dominant player there with the likelihood of continued gains in market share.”

Google’s Schmidt, who was in Sun Valley, Idaho, for a conference with media executives, said in an interview he learned of the renewal decision early on July 9.

“This is the outcome we were hoping for, we just didn’t expect a decision this soon,” Schmidt said. “Literally, the good news came overnight.”

Candlelight Vigils

China’s decision may also constitute a nod to the Chinese people who voiced support for the company, partly through lighting candles outside Google offices, said Heath Terry, who rates Google “outperform” at FBR Capital Markets in New York.

“It signifies the importance of Google to China — from the candlelight vigils outside of the headquarters to the sheer usage numbers of Google in China,” he said. “Google is important to the Chinese people and I think the government heard that.”

Google’s decision to end self-censorship has cost the company partnerships with China Unicom (Hong Kong) Ltd. and Tom Online Inc., and lifted sales at Baidu.

“Google doesn’t really want to leave China, because it’s a very big market and there is a lot of potential for them,” Bruno Lippens, a fund manager at Pictet Asset Management SA in Geneva, said before the renewal. “It goes much broader than just business issues. It’s about cultural differences and fundamental beliefs like freedom of speech and privacy.”

‘Sophisticated’ Attacks

Google rose $10.93, or 2.4 percent, to $467.49 on the Nasdaq Stock Market on July 9. The shares have declined 25 percent this year.

Google resubmitted a license renewal application last week. The company had said in January it would stop censoring content and threatened to exit the Chinese market after cyber attacks originating from the nation targeted its systems.

The “highly sophisticated” attacks were aimed at obtaining proprietary information and personal data belonging to human-rights activists who use the company’s Gmail e-mail service, it said.

Since it began redirecting Chinese users, Google’s search results have been screened by China’s so-called Great Firewall, a government monitoring system that blocks overseas services such as Facebook Inc. and Google’s YouTube.

The firewall limits Chinese Web users’ access to information on topics ranging from Tibet’s independence movement to the 1989 crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen Square.

Sliding Share

Google’s market share in China fell to 30.9 percent in the first quarter from 35.6 percent three months prior, according to data from research firm Analysys International. Baidu’s share increased to a record 64 percent from 58.4 percent, according to Analysys. Baidu fell $1.23, or 1.7 percent, to $71.20.

Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch estimated in April Google would generate $160 million in sales this year from China. That’s less than 1 percent of the company’s projected total revenue this year, according to the average of 29 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. It earned sales of about $335 million from China in 2009, according to Analysys.

China had 384 million Internet users at the end of 2009, the government estimates. That’s more than the total U.S. population, and according to EMarketer Inc., it may grow to 840 million by 2013.

Baidu in April said it benefited from Google’s “semi- exit.” The Chinese company expects “healthy” growth in customers and average spending by clients will continue, Baidu CEO Robin Li said in a conference call in April.

Baidu Ads

Google’s advertisers in China may have cut their spending by as much as 30 percent on average, and shifted their business mostly to Baidu, Credit Suisse Group AG analyst Wallace Cheung wrote in an April report. This has let Baidu charge higher prices, according to Cheung.

The license renewal comes after the U.S. said China took a “significant step” last month when it ended the yuan’s peg to the dollar and allowed markets to drive the currency higher. It’s not yet clear whether China’s policy shift will correct the yuan’s undervaluation, the U.S. Treasury Department said.

–With assistance from Pavel Alpeyev in Tokyo; Amy Thomson in New York; Andy Fixmer in Sun Valley, Idaho; Joseph Galante in San Francisco; and Yidi Zhao. Editors: Tom Giles, Nick Turner

To contact the reporters on this story: Mark Lee in Hong Kong at wlee37@bloomberg.net; Brian Womack in San Francisco at bwomack1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Young-Sam Cho at ycho2@bloomberg.net; Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net

Source taken from: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-07-11/google-wins-renewal-of-its-china-license-xinhua-says.html

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Blogging behind Vietnam’s bamboo cyberwall

By Pamela Boykoff, CNN
June 25, 2010

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (CNN) — Helmet under her arm, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh arrives after traveling 450 kilometers by motorbike, evading the security police, to tell CNN the story of her imprisonment for blogging in Vietnam.

“The first three days I was scared for myself,” she said about her 10 days in prison, during which officers repeatedly asked her about her writing and if she received cash from anti-government groups outside the country.

Vietnamese like Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh are embracing the internet in full force. There are 24 million internet users right now, nearly a third of the population. A decade ago there were 200,000. Internet cafes have popped up all over Ho Chi Minh City, and social networking sites are increasing in popularity along with mobile internet use.

“Internet life grows so fast,” said a popular blogger, who requested anonymity out of concerns for his safety. “Even I, one of the bloggers, could not imagine how fast this could be.

“And nearly everyone, each Vietnamese, has their own blog.”

Like elsewhere, most Vietnamese blogs deal with life, work, humor or technology. But a group of bloggers here also focus on a more dangerous territory in this one-party Communist state: They write about local corruption, land seizures and the increasing influence of China. They complain about the lack of multiparty democracy, too.

In a nutshell, they blog about the sort of issues that can get you into deep trouble in today’s Vietnam.

This is something that Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh — who blogs under the Vietnamese pen name Me Nam or Mother Mushroom — knows well.

Her blog includes writings about her daily life and pictures of her young daughter, but she also expresses her outspoken views against China’s intervention in her country, including Beijing’s financing of a controversial bauxite mine in the Central Highlands.

Those views led to her arrest and imprisonment for ten days in August, for, she said, “abuse of democratic freedoms and infringing on the national benefit.”

When I first got in touch with Nguyen nearly a year later, her phone and movements were still being monitored. E-mail, I had been told, was the best way to get in touch.

“I am willing to tell my story to you,” she wrote to me, saying she would travel from Nha Trang to Ho Chi Minh City to meet us.

Twelve hours later, she sent another e-mail. “Can you sure filming is OK and safe for us?” She feared the security police would prevent her from coming, but she would try.

The next day she arrived, and over the next two hours she told her story.

“I did not know what happened. But the fourth and fifth and the sixth day when they asked me the same questions, I was scared for my mom and my daughter and my husband. I didn’t want to think about them when I was put in prison, because if I ever think about them I wanted to give everything to come to my family.”

As a condition of her release, she agreed to give up blogging, posting a handwritten letter on her site in which she explained that she loved her country, but that the government felt this was the wrong way. After being denied a passport two months later though, she decided to begin again.

“I write another entry on my blog, that I gave up already, but they didn’t leave me alone,” she said. “I have to take the right to say what I think.”

What does she think the government will do if they see her telling her story on CNN?

“I think that they have to think about this,” she said. “Because I just tell the truth … If they arrest me again because I send a message outside to the world, I am not scared. This means that they show to (the) world that we don’t have freedom like they say.”

When contacted by CNN about its policy on freedom of expression on the internet, Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry provided the following written response.

“In Vietnam, freedom of information and freedom of speech are guaranteed and practiced in accordance with the law. Such concern as ‘government threatens free expression online and an open internet’ is groundless.”

Nguyen and I have been keeping in touch by e-mail since her story aired on CNN International television one week ago.

“Thank you so much for the film …,” she wrote me on Saturday. “Thank you for coming to report about our country.”

And at the bottom of her automatic signature, the same as on every e-mail I have received from her, it read: “Who will speak if you don’t?”

Source taken from: http://edition.cnn.com/2010/TECH/social.media/06/24/vietnam.cyberwall/

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Open Letter to Will Ferrell: Help Us Save the Internet

Megan Tady
Megan Tady
Blog Editor and Video Producer, Free Press

Posted: June 21, 2010 10:51 AM

Dear Will,

I sent you an e-mail awhile back asking you to get involved in the fight to save the Internet, and a writer at FunnyorDie.com said she was going to forward it to your people. Did you get it? I haven’t heard back from you, and I’ve triple-checked my junk mail, my Twitter DM box, my Facebook events (in case you invited me to do something), my YouTube channel (maybe you subscribed), and an old high school Hotmail account I opened before I knew passwords were supposed to be tricky and not just for the user to remember (password: hotmail).

So I’m taking my request to this blog: I need your help saving the Internet and preserving Net Neutrality, the principle that protects our free speech online. (I also sent along the treatment for a dramedy about two adopted brothers – you and John C. Reilly – who learn to walk by copying each other’s first steps. I don’t know, I think it could be a hit).

I bet you’re wondering, “Why me?” You’ve made history, my friend, and it ain’t drunk. Your “Landlord” video on FunnyorDie.com has become a Web classic, with over 72 million people watching as a smashed, swearing toddler/landlord berates you for not paying your rent.

The ingenuity of this video isn’t the comedic timing, or the way Pearl says “evicted” – it’s the platform on which it exists. The open platform of the Internet has allowed you, and millions of other people not as funny as you, to make and share their own videos without anyone’s permission. On the Internet, there’s no Hollywood studio holding you back and your creativity can flourish. Thanks to the Internet, comedy has entered a new, no holds-barred arena where anything is possible and the audience gets to decide what’s funny, and what’s failing.

But there’s a problem: Internet service providers like Comcast and AT&T want to tame the Internet, put restrictions on our free speech, and charge users and creators to prioritize their content to load quickly. They want to clamp down on the level playing field that has made the Internet so sensational.

In 2008, when FunnyorDie.com was just a start-up, could it have survived in an environment where AT&T and Verizon demanded extra payment to get FoD videos in front of audiences? Maybe not.

This month, a group of young Internet “stars” (we tried to get Pearl, but she wanted her payment up front in beer, and our lawyers said no) joined together in this video to appeal to the public about Net Neutrality and the fight for the Internet.

Now we need you, and other prominent people who rely on the Web to create and share their art and comedy and music, to join this fight and tell the Federal Communications Commission and Congress to protect the Internet and Net Neutrality.

Can you ask your friend Ashton Kutcher, who used the Internet to create his own Web series called “BlahGirls,” to get involved? When people think of Twitter – let’s face it – they think of Ashton. And what about your pal Gwyneth Paltrow, who uses her blog to teach me how to be a celebrity and still cook for myself? Surely you know Justin Bieber, who would still be singing into the mirror in Canada if it wasn’t for YouTube. And if you’re tight with Madonna, we’ll take her, too.

Basically, we need the creative community to get involved and embrace this fight as their own. In an age where mega media companies decide everything we listen to, read and watch on the big screen, the Internet gives you – and all of us – freedom.

Will you help? This is me asking if you’ll help, not saying your first name followed by “you help?” That would be awkward.

But this isn’t: If you care about the Internet and want to preserve it, have your people call my people. Which is actually just me answering my phone using a different voice. So call me. I’m awake, just clicking refresh on my Hotmail account.

Thanks, and we need you.

Source taken from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/megan-tady/open-letter-to-will-ferre_b_619384.html

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South Pacific Countries Crack Down on Free Speech

| June 18, 2010

There must be something in the water down in the South Pacific. Following the recent news that an Australian state is considering tough new legislation banning swearing in public, comes word that Thailand has blocked 43,000 websites accused of defaming the king.

Thai authorities are using strict Internet crime laws, along with laws that make it illegal to criticize the monarchy, plus emergency powers the government granted itself following the recent outbreak of anti-government protests. The latest crackdown comes after 17,000 other websites were blocked, supposedly for national security reasons.Clothilde Le Coz from Reporters Without Borders has more context:

Blocking Twitter and Facebook is nothing new for Thai authorities. Since at least 2009, this has been a regular practice among the Thai police. So far, one blogger, Suwicha Thakor, has been jailed for his online activities. In April of last year, he was given a 10-year jail sentence by a criminal court in the northeast Bangkok district of Ratchada. This was for posting content online that was deemed to have insulted the monarchy. Thakor has been held in Bangkok’s Klong Prem prison since January 14. […]

The harassment of netizens is widely spread and does not stop at Thai borders. In 2006, Anthony Chai, an American citizen from California, was interrogated by Thai officials in Thailand and again later in the U.S. for allegedly insulting the monarchy in 2006. Originally from Thailand, Chai was granted U.S. citizenship in the late 1970s. He faces possible arrest if he returns to Thailand. “What if now the U.S. is allowing a U.S. citizen to be interrogated by foreign agents on U.S. soil?” he said. You can read more about Chai’s case here.

With all the instability in Thailand, a feature in The Diplomat notes that many people in the region are pointing to Indonesia as a better model for democracy. But critics of the government are suffering in Indonesia, too:

Indonesia may have made significant strides on media freedoms since repealing many of the repressive Suharto-era laws that muzzled the press. But rights groups say the government is still trying to silence critics of public officials, pointing to renewed efforts to monitor the Internet as evidence that free speech remains in jeopardy.

Take, for example, the case of Prita Mulyasari—probably the best example of how uncomfortable Jakarta’s elite are with online media. The housewife and mother of two spent three weeks in jail for writing an e-mail to friends complaining about the treatment she received at a private hospital.

Source taken from: http://reason.com/blog/2010/06/18/south-pacific-countries-crackd

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China Confronts Its Google Problem

By JOSEPH STERNBERG

15 June 2010

What a difference six months make. In the first half of this year, Honda has been forced by a strike to raise wages at a parts factory in China and electronics-maker Foxconn is doing the same to avert more worker suicides. Some 88% of American companies operating there in a recent survey complain of labor shortages. “Moving up the value chain” is becoming all the rage. So we now begin to see an answer to a question posed in this column in January: “Can China develop into a mature economy if the Googles . . . of the world can’t rise or fall there solely on their commercial merits?”

It can’t, and here’s why:

Rising wages threaten China’s basic economic model. Counting on an endless supply of cheap labor to produce schlock for American McMansions turns out to be unsustainable as the labor grows more expensive and ornery. Beijing will try to tamp down such protests before they grow too assertive, and in the near term cheap replacement workers are on hand to break strikes. But the writing clearly is on the wall.

This matches the experience of other economies like Europe or the United States, where the Industrial Revolution eventually spurred greater union militancy and rising wages. The most commonly cited solution to this “problem” (which is only a problem if you prefer to keep Chinese workers poor and chained to their sewing machines) is to move up the value chain. Think Henry Ford’s 1913 assembly line and many other productivity-boosting responses to rising labor costs. This process is well underway in China now, too.

But that won’t be enough. Rising industrial wages and productivity in the West were also met by the rise of services. Emphasis on capital-intensive manufacturing reduces opportunities for industrial employment. And higher prices for manufactured goods mean more people need to find their way into even-higher-paying jobs. Note the explosion of services such as retail, banking, insurance, travel and tourism and the like throughout the 19th century.

China has a service economy, but it’s small compared to other large developing countries. Value added in services equalled about 40% of China’s GDP in 2009, little changed from a decade earlier. In India over the same span the figure has increased to nearly 50% from 46%. In Russia, it has floated around 50%, and in Brazil it is now 55%, down from 57% a decade ago. Only Indonesia has a service sector proportionately similar to China’s. But Indonesia is also poorer, with per-capital GDP about two-thirds the size of China’s. In fully developed economies, value added by services typically is equal to between 65% and 70% of GDP.

Some hurdles to boosting services are common across many developing countries. People require more and better education to become productive service workers. And there are social factors, such as trust. In a manufacturing economy you hand over your cash and receive a product you can see and touch immediately. In a service economy, you hand over your cash in the expectation that your insurance company or travel agent will deliver a service at some time in the future.

But China adds another, potentially crippling, barrier: politics. The services part of the economy is by far the greatest threat to any authoritarian regime. In forging commercial connections between people and companies, it creates pathways for other types of contact. Google’s business of building a conduit for finely tailored ads to reach computer users didn’t threaten Beijing. The fact that information about Tiananmen Square and emails between dissidents could flow through the same pipeline did, which is why Google kept running up against the censors. Similar worries appear to have prompted authorities to block the iPhone’s signature wireless Internet connectivity, that wondrous vector of modern service provision, and even then the iPhone hit China two years after its roll-out elsewhere.

Thus the service industries—whether banking or travel or communications or legal services—are among the most heavily regulated in China, especially for foreign investors. While this doesn’t exactly add up to an economy with no services, it does mean an economy with inefficient services. For instance, Beijing grants national champion UnionPay a domestic monopoly on processing credit- and debit-card transactions, much to the irritation of Visa and MasterCard. This is vital to allowing authorities to keep tabs on cash flows to maintain capital controls. But it also means less competition and, as a result, a more expensive system for handling cases like transactions where the consumer and merchant use different banks. This adds up to a hidden cost.

Beijing must sooner or later confront its Google Problem: The economy can’t “move up the value chain” if a service behemoth like Google can’t find a hospitable home there. So China has to either open up to services or accept its lot as the low-wage factory to the world. In the short term the government may hope that a still-large supply of cheap labor will delay the moment of decision. But recent labor unrest suggests that moment may be nearer than expected.

Mr. Sternberg edits the Business Asia column.

Source taken from: https://asiandigitalcultures.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php

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Viewpoints: Pakistani bloggers on internet bans

The popular video-sharing website YouTube and the social network Facebook remain blocked in Pakistan as part of a crackdown on websites seen to be hosting un-Islamic content.

Here, two bloggers in Pakistan give their position on the government’s internet crackdown.

AGAINST THE BAN: DR AWAB ALVI

A group of us internet users, calling ourselves “Defenders of Internet Freedom in Pakistan”, conducted a press conference yesterday where we gave our position on the Facebook ban.

We object to blasphemous content on Facebook but we are against a blanket ban.

As a Muslim, I do find the idea of the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad offensive. But my personal view is that if there’s objectionable content, then only the URL that takes you to that content should be banned.

We are all being held hostage. YouTube and Flickr are blocked. Twitter was blocked too, though I was been able to access it again a few hours ago.

If they continue to block things, this is going to hinder Pakistan’s progres

The actions by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority is getting out of hand. Wikipedia is going down and more and more people, I think, are beginning to realise the impact of this decision.

Only about 8% of the country’s population are internet users. So for the majority of Pakistanis, life continues as it is. They are protesting against the fact that there are cartoons and condemning something they haven’t even seen.

There are wider issues. The internet has become a way of life itself. If they continue to block things, this is going to hinder Pakistan’s progress.

Pakistan is an emotionally-charged nation that continues to believe that the Facebook ban is justified. We are a minority of people who disagree and who present the issue publicly.

Yesterday I was nearly beaten up after the press conference. We were confronted with questions like: Are we Muslims? Then why do we defend Facebook? If you are for Facebook, then you are non-Muslim, you see.

Dr Awab Alvi writes for www.teeth.com.pk/blog

FOR THE BAN: KASHIF AZIZ

I agree with the ban on Facebook. It shows that our government means business.

The cartoons are offensive to Muslim people and according to Facebook’s own rules, I believe, it should remove any content that is offensive or discriminatory.

The main point is that the ban doesn’t come from a religious institution, it comes from the high court. This indicates how serious it is.

There needs to be a fine line drawn. Otherwise the freedom of expression can turn into freedom to offend

YouTube is blocked and Twitter was blocked until recently. I’ve tried the BBC News website and the main page is blocked on the PTCL (Pakistan’s main internet service provider). I noticed that it’s accessible through different internet service providers.

We are not allowed to draw pictures of the Prophet Muhammad – that’s a basic rule. So it seems as if this competition page set up on Facebook is trying to make fun of our religion.

I am in favour of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. But there needs to be a fine line drawn. Otherwise freedom of expression can turn into freedom to offend.

There are certain people in Pakistan right now, mostly young adults, who are crazy about Facebook. They think the ban is not right.

They need to be addressed. They need to understand that we have to honour the Prophet Muhammad and that the ban is there for that purpose.

Kashif Aziz writes for www.chowrangi.com

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The Web is my biggest terrorist

By Princess Fatimah Tariq

Dear Readers,

As my name suggests, I am a Muslim. My religion has unfortunately now become the face of terrorism and I feel that one reason why this is happening is because of the World Wide Web.

With approximately 1.5 billion Muslims, Islam today is the second-largest religion in the world and arguably the fastest growing religion in the world. Being such a dominating religion, there are many Muslim who like me have the priviledge to browse the web for both work and play. A couple of days ago, I stumbled upon a website that shocked the life out of me, www.thereligionofpeace.com. This website describes my religion as “a big stack of dead bodies”.

I find that the internet has really gone out of hands. People now have the freedom to post and publish whatever they like that could be as sensitive as religion. Such people make the Internet look ruthless and a medium of no respect. It makes the public lose trust upon the content brought to us by the Internet. I also find that the freedom on the Internet makes people not think before they publish their thoughts. They stop thinking about ethics and how others feel with regards to the same topic spoken about.

Moreover, information published on the Internet such as the offending website has a bad impression on those who do not know about Islam. Giving the religion a negative perspective, many people are bound to hate Muslims without getting to actually know one. In this case, the Internet could become as dangerous as a factor encouraging genocide.

You must have heard about the famous, recent Facebook incident involving cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad as a dog and other humiliating figures. Such images posted by anti-muslim groups invoke tensions between people. The Facebook page on Prophet Mohammad become so serious that a number of Muslim countries including Pakistan and Bangladesh had bycott Facebook for a period of time. This incident has also alerted Facebook who has promised to be more active in looking out for such aggrevating pages, posts or comments on its site.

If you are interest to find out more, search for “Facebook” and/or “Pakistan” “Bangladesh” on my search bar on the left-hand corner of the site. This will lead you to some of the recent articles on facebook and the Prophet Mohammad Issue.

I hope people using the Internet realise that if they continue to use the Web for wrong purposes it will lead to governments implementing stricter Internet policies that might limit our usuage of such a remarkable invention. This fear has already risen in the mind of the government of China who is now known to have set some of the most rigid rules on the Internet.

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